Market Trader

The Job and What's Involved

A market trader sells goods or services on a market stall. Goods can be perishable, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, or they can be non-perishable, such as jewellery, cards, toys and clothes. Services can include shoe repairs and key cutting.

Market stalls include small independent retailers such as butchers, bakers and grocers. There are various different types of markets, including:

Retail - selling a wide range of products from mobile phones and DVDs/CDs, to toys and games, and clothing and fashion accessories.

Farmers - selling locally grown and reared fresh products.

Flea - selling new or second-hand clothes and bric-a-brac.

Specialist - selling, for example, computers, antiques or crafts.

Market traders are involved in a wide variety of tasks, including:

  • Attending wholesale markets, typically early in the morning before their market opens, to buy produce.
  • Ordering products from wholesalers, manufacturers, sales representatives, agents and importers.
  • Bidding and buying stock online via wholesalers' websites.
  • Erecting and dismantling their stall.
  • Selling to and engaging with customers.
  • Employing and managing staff.
  • Monitoring stock levels and product performance.
  • Marketing stock, including devising special offers and promotions.
  • Ensuring that trading standards and health and safety regulations are met.
  • Keeping abreast of market competition.
  • Dealing with customers returning faulty or unwanted goods.
  • Book-keeping.

Some market traders have their own websites to support their business through an online presence.

A significant number of market traders manufacture or make their own products, which can range from wrought iron railings and home-baked confectionery through to jewellery and clothing.

Food traders, particularly ones selling perishable products, need to have knowledge of food safety legislation, such as statutory temperature controls in selling and transporting goods and general hygiene principles.

Market traders work long hours, including weekends. Depending on their trade, a working day may start very early in the morning so they can attend wholesale markets. Working from 5.00am until 6.00pm on market days is not unusual. Part-time work is common.

Markets can be indoors or outside, permanent or temporary. Some markets run every day, others once or twice a week or only at weekends, and others on a monthly or seasonal basis. They vary in size, and are usually busy and noisy environments in which to work. Traders may work at more than one location.

The work can be physically demanding as it involves lifting and carrying of stock and long periods of standing and serving behind a stall.

A driving licence is usually essential.

A market stall employee is likely to start on the national minimum wage, which is reviewed annually, and currently ranges from around £7,342 to £11,918, depending on age and hours worked.

Experienced traders working full time may earn around £18,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The UK has around 1,124 retail markets, 605 farmers' markets, and 26 wholesale markets directly employing around 95,000 people.

Markets range enormously in size. In rural areas or small towns they can consist of a handful of stalls, selling flowers and local produce. In cities, there are markets where shoppers can buy anything from fresh foods, including meat, fish and vegetables, to clothes, cosmetics and electrical equipment.

Local authorities manage the majority of market sites, while others are run by private companies, charities or market trader co-operatives. The National Market Traders' Federation (NMTF) website at has a searchable database that lists details of markets available throughout the UK.

Usually, market traders start by first attending as 'casuals'. Casual traders turn up early in the morning of the market and queue to be allocated a pitch. The longer they attend as casual traders the more chance they have of being allocated a regular pitch when one becomes available. Once this happens, market traders then rent the pitch on a regular basis. Most market operators require stallholders to have public liability insurance. Membership of the NMTF includes public, employer's and product insurance. Further information can be obtained from the NMTF.

Employment opportunities can often be found through word of mouth, by talking to other market traders.

Education and Training

There are no set academic entry requirements to become a market trader. Quick and accurate arithmetic skills are important for dealing with money. The majority of local authorities require market traders to be at least 16 years of age.

The Diploma in retail business may be relevant for this area of work.

Working as an employee in a retail outlet or on a market stall is a useful way of gaining relevant experience. It may be possible to find casual work helping traders to erect and dismantle stalls.

Life experience, confidence and customer care skills are important qualities to have. Useful work experience may be gained from managing or working for a business.

Potential market traders need to check the suitability of the market first and check that what they want to sell isn't already widely available in the market. They also need to be able to finance starting up and running a stall. This can include the cost of buying their stock, paying the rent for their pitch and covering running costs, such as public liability or vehicle insurance.

Local authorities usually employ a markets officer who can provide guidance about renting a stall. Market traders need to register with the local markets office as a trader first, before they can apply for a temporary, and eventually permanent, licence. Permanent licences are valid for two years.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

As they are self-employed, market traders are responsible for identifying their own training opportunities, although most training is on the job. They should aim to develop their business and skills as they gain experience.

Courses in VAT and book-keeping are available through local colleges throughout the UK.

As a market trader it is possible to join the NMTF. The NMTF is a trade association that provides guidance and support for its members, as well as business services and other benefits.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A market trader should:

  • Have strong communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Be commercially minded with good negotiation skills.
  • Have excellent customer service skills.
  • Have numeracy skills for dealing with money.
  • Have energy and enthusiasm.
  • Be sales focused and able to promote their stall creatively.
  • Be quick thinking.
  • Be physically fit.

Your Long Term Prospects

Market traders need to focus on sales and building up a good reputation in order to grow and develop their business.

As they progress, they may be able to employ additional staff. They could also open up a retail outlet or sell their products over the internet.

Get Further Information

National Market Traders' Federation,
Hampton House, Hawshaw Lane,
Hoyland, Barnsley S74 0HA
Tel: 01226 749021

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